Arvesen edges out Elmiger for debut stage win

KURT ASLE ARVESEN emerged from a group of a dozen escapees to win the 11th stage of the Tour de France from Lannemezan to Foix.

The debut Tour stage victory for the 33-year-old Norwegian national champion continues a fine race for the CSC team, who also controlled Monday’s stage from Pau to Hautacam with a powerful five-man attack.

Arvesen had the best line of attack out of the final corner, and edged out Martin Elmiger of Ag2r-La Mondiale and Lampre’s Alessandro Ballan by a tyre’s width. However, CSC could not close Frank Schleck’s slender one-second gap on race leader Cadel Evans, who holds onto the yellow jersey going into today’s flat stage from Lavelanet to Narbonne.

Evans was guided carefully through the stage by his Silence-Lotto team, to keep him on course in his quest to be the first Australian to win the Tour de France.

Given a day’s rest after the exertions of the Tourmalet and the Hautacam, the riders had to contend with an unknown category one climb, the Col de Portel, on the early part of the stage.

At the foot of the Portel the group of 12, all out of contention for overall victory, had a lead of over 14 minutes on the peloton.

Cofidis’ Amael Moinard broke away from the other 11 riders 9km from the summit to become the first man ever to pass the Portel in Tour history.

The Frenchman held out valiantly over the Col del Buich, and held off attacks by Arvesen and Elmiger until he was swallowed up with three kilometres left.

Moinard won a stage of the 2007 Route du Sud at St Lary-Soulan, and he used his local knowledge to good effect.

Arvesen appeared to back off too soon at the line, and was almost caught by Elmiger, but he was nonetheless delighted to claim his first stage win.

The only man who threatened to make an impression on the general classification was Oscar Pereiro, who broke away from the peloton on the lower slopes of the Portel.

Pereiro spent the first week working for Caisse d’Epargne colleague Alejandro Valverde, but Valverde’s fall from contention allowed Pereiro to release some of his frustration.

Though the Spaniard’s attack came to nothing and he eventually dropped back into the peloton, the 2006 Tour winner demonstrated the power he has in reserve.

Moinard took 20 climbing points as a result of his heroics, but Riccardo Ricco keeps the polka-dot jersey for the ensuing flat stages.

With only one categorised climb, today’s 168.5km stage to Narbonne could present the chance of a third stage victory for Britain’s Mark Cavendish.

If the Manxman was to triumph on the Cote Verme, he would be the first British rider to ever win three stages in the same Tour.

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